Seoul (South Korea), 30 July 2013 - Organized criminal groups in East Asia and the Pacific earn nearly USD 90 billion a year - an amount roughly equal to twice the GDP of Myanmar - from criminal activities including human trafficking and migrant smuggling, illicit drugs, environmental crimes (wildlife, wood products, e-waste and ozone-depleting substances), and counterfeit consumer goods and fake medicines, says the UNODC report, Transnational Organized Crime in East Asia and the Pacific: A Treat Assessment.
The transnational nature of these crimes poses challenges for national authorities.
"As crime becomes increasingly transnational in nature, national prosecution and law enforcement authorities must act cooperatively beyond their national borders," notes Mr. Keebong Paek, Senior Prosecutorial and Judicial Adviser for UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
One of the most important legal tools enabling national authorities to counter transnational crime is Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).
MLA is a process by which one state seeks legal assistance from another state, typically to obtain evidence, recover illegal profits of crime or obtain statements or documents for investigations or prosecution. MLA requests have increased along with transnational organized crime because evidence and illegal profits are often located outside the nation where an offence was committed.
Although potentially an efficient tool, the use of MLA is hindered in practice by legal and technical obstacles and a lack of understanding and cooperation between the countries involved.
To combat this, UNODC Regional Office for Southeast and the Pacific (ROSEAP) and the Ministry of Justice, Republic of Korea, organized the second annual senior-level workshop on extradition and MLA in East Asia and the Pacific, a follow-up to last year's workshop in Bangkok, Thailand. The workshop is part of a series of efforts by UNODC to build regional networks among judicial and law enforcement authorities.
"To effectively respond to transnational crimes, we must better understand other nations' systems and circumstances, closely cooperate and develop trust at the working-levels where the MLA and extradition requests are made and acted on," said Mr. Minsoo Kook, Vice-minister of Justice, Republic of Korea.
The workshop sought ways to break down some of the legal and technical barriers to effective extradition and MLA, and to build a forum where central authorities could explore ways to enhance their mutual understanding and develop cooperative networks to more effectively counter transnational crimes.
Attendees included high-level practitioners from 10 ASEAN Member States - Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Viet Nam - as well as Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Clear legislation, streamlined, flexible procedures in each country, and cooperative relationships among central authorities were a must for successful extradition and MLA requests, participants stressed.
"What is important are good informal relations with other central authorities and constant follow-up," said Ms. Norhayati Binti Daud, Deputy Senior Counsel, Attorney General's Chambers, Brunei Darussalam.
Attendees also discussed the expansion of the ASEAN Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), now that Thailand had become the tenth and final ASEAN country to ratify it.
"With the completion of ratification processes of all ASEAN Member Countries, Malaysia is proposing to host the Fifth ASEAN Attorney Generals' Meeting, tentatively in November 2013, to seek the response of all ASEAN Member Countries on the elevation of the Treaty and the next course of actions," said Ms. Wan Nor Sakina Binti Saad, Senior Federal Counsel, Attorney General's Chambers, Malaysia.
Attendees also worked to consolidate regional guideline extradition and MLA information.
"This workshop has collected in a unified format guideline information on extradition and MLA for each participating country," said Mr. Paek. "This will be very helpful reference next time a country makes an extradition or MLA request to another country."
|This workshop was organized by the Towards AsiaJust Programme (TAJ), a sub-programme of the UNODC's Regional Programme Framework for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. TAJ is funded by the Republic of Korea.|